Widening the Circle

A chorus-sized circle lines the rehearsal room at the Revels office. Photo: Helen Fields

At the beginning of most rehearsals, and before every performance, we all stand in a circle for something we call – wait, the clever name will amaze you – “circle.” Some people find this a bit off-putting. Yeah, there’s a certain amount of hand-holding. But it’s part of what brings us together, and coming together is what makes The Christmas Revels.

Circle is a time for announcements about logistics and schedule, and for standing with your stage family, hand in hand, getting your body ready for singing. It’s for people who aren’t on stage and aren’t singing, too. The circle keeps getting bigger, reaching out to hold more and more of the Revels community and beyond.

The circle was pretty big at Saturday's all-day rehearsal. Photo: Helen Fields

Artistic Director Roberta Gasbarre explains it to us like this. At the first circle of the year, in May or June, the circle is just the adults in the chorus and a few other people. As the year goes on, the circle expands. The teens join us in September. In October we meet our children for the first time. Volunteers appear to work on props and make crafts to sell at the merchandise tables. Designers stop by.

In November we have weekend rehearsals in larger spaces. The costume and props crews start fixing us up with things to wear and things to hold. In a little over a week, we’ll be holding circle under the stage at Lisner, where there’s no room for a single file circle. The usual call is “Come to circle!” but at Lisner, it’s “Come to blob!” as we all squish in to listen to each other’s words.

The 2007 cast assembles under the stage for circle. Photo: Erin Sutherland

Finally, in December, the cast and volunteers and whoever else is there will end every performance singing Sussex Mummers Carol, holding hands, across the front of the stage and up the stairs at the side of the theater to encircle the audience. That’s when the circle is at its largest.

The point of Revels isn’t to stand on stage and sound pretty. (Although we do that, and quite well.) What makes Revels special is that we build a real community among ourselves, as we learn and practice the traditions represented in a particular show, and then keep expanding that community to include the whole audience in our celebration of the seasons. As the poem goes: “Singing, dancing to drive the dark away.”

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